Despite living here 2 out of the last 3 years, I’ve never made it to Pamplona’s fiesta before today. If huge crowds, three different songs playing within as many metres, and genuine hospitality and warmth is what makes you tick, then I do recommend you come visit at least one time.
But, of course, barring the heartlands in the south of Spain, Pamplona is the bullfighting centre of the universe. At least it is to outsiders. A Spaniard would probably point to San Isidro as the main bullfighting festival. That being said, Ernest Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises is probably the reason why this is generally considered the archetypal Spanish fiesta for outsiders.
Talking of Hemingway, I visited one of his old haunts today to meet with my interviewee, Ana Alvarado, bullfighting advocate, journalist and teacher. We met outside Cafe Iruña and made our way upstairs to a quieter area (NB: A relatively quiet area, this is a Spanish fiesta, after all). We chatted about many things, from her first memories of bullfighting, to the topic of inclusivity in bullfighting via arguments for and against. It was a really interesting interview, and I’m of course very glad to have spoken to her. Muchas gracias Ana!
After that I decided it would be only right to take a look at the stretch where the bull run takes place. A mere 841m. The first part is all uphill, which is not the most pleasant in the mid-evening Spanish heat, but I suffer for my art. What I found intriguing is that walls and areas show some damage from the bull run. On a previous occasion I remember seeing a corner that had been worn smooth by decades of encierros (or so my Spanish friend told me after a few beers).
What I noticed was just how prevalent the symbol of the bull is. From the moment I stepped off the bus there was a stall selling pins and t-shirts with bulls on them. Then there are the tourists wearing encierro-inspired gear. And of course, there are the large silhouettes of bulls dotted across the landscape when travelling between towns and cities. The prevalence of such a symbol serves to reinforce the idea that the bull is a proud image for (some) Spaniards, and that the Spanish people continue to revel in it.
But all that could be changed by my next interview. That’s the beauty of making a documentary.
Un saludo cordial!